Player Feature: Kelcy Quarles

Following each practice this spring, GamecockAnthem will take a look at one of the players on the 2011 Gamecock football team. Today we look a Kelcy Quarles, who originally signed with the Gamecocks in 2010. After a year at Fork Union Military Academy, Quarles made his Gamecock debut Tuesday.

The player that most fans think will make the biggest impact on the defensive line in the 2011 South Carolina football season has yet to actually enroll at the university. Defensive line coach Brad Lawing even joked after Tuesday's opening spring practice that one lineman has asked to move to linebacker and another has had to see a sports psychologist because of this player, who also happens to be the last Gamecock signee in it's 2011 class.

However, there is one Gamecock newcomer on the defensive line that is already drawing the attention of the coaching staff. Kelcy Quarles - who was the first commitment of South Carolina's highly touted recruiting class that includes the likes of quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Marcus Lattimore - has been impressing coaches throughout winter workouts.

"He's a heck of an athlete - I just have to teach him," Lawing said Tuesday. "He works hard, he understands what he's supposed (to do), I just have to get him taught up. He comes from a great program up at Fork Union with John Schuman. He's been raised right in football. As long as he continues to work hard, it's my job to get him where he needs to."

Quarles committed to South Carolina in November 2008 and despite his promise that he was going to "shock the world" that had many Gamecock fans feeling uneasy, he stuck with his commitment and signed his LOI in February 2010. The Greenwood native failed to qualify academically and enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy under Schuman. That proved to be an excellent choice for Quarles as he learned the skills that will not only help him in his football career, but in life as well.

"They teach you discipline, how to appreciate life and how to appreciate the game of football," Quarles said. "Having a great school like the University of South Carolina offer you and giving you a chance to come here and play and seeing other guys who are struggling just trying to get a scholarship makes you appreciate it a lot."

After enrolling in Columbia in January, Quarles quickly reconnected with Lattimore, Dylan Thompson, and several other guys he grew close to in the recruiting process.

"It's been great - so much fun coming back with those guys (and) getting to room with them," Quarles said. "We feel like brothers and getting these winter workouts with the d-line and team and it just felt good to get down here. It's like a dream come true and I'm just ready to do the things we said we were going to do when we committed."

Twenty-eight months after initially committing to South Carolina, Quarles finally got his first opportunity to don the garnet and black Tuesday evening.

"It felt real good to finally get out here and practice with the guys that were telling me to come here," Quarles said. "It felt real good to put the helmet on and be out here - having Coach Lawing coach me like he said he would. I thank God I finally made it and I'm just ready to contribute."

It won't be easy for Quarles to break into the rotation at defensive tackle. With Travian Robertson and Melvin Ingram returning, along with Kenny Davis, Byron Jerideau, and J.T. Surratt all vying for playing time Lawing has plenty of options at defensive tackle. All Quarles can do is worry about himself and focus on making himself better this spring.

"Just learn the defense, run around and make plays, listen to Coach Lawing, work on my fundamentals, get in better shape, gain a little bit of weight, and just get in there and contribute like I know I can," Quarles said.

Quarles, who is already up to 278 pounds, hopes to be closer to 300 pounds by the beginning of the season. When September rolls around and the 2011 season gets underway, Quarles journey from Greenwood to Fork Union to South Carolina will finally be complete.

"You learn to never take anything for granted," Quarles said. "You learn to appreciate your parents and the people you have in your life ad you want to take advantage of the classroom when someone's trying to help you and don't just sit around and laugh and take it like a joke. Just do things right the first time and don't wait too long to do it when you can just do it the first time."

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